Archive for the ‘Multi-Modal X-ing’ Category

The City is proposing to reduce the number of lanes on Sullivant Avenue from four to three. This would also remove parking on one side of the street. Sharrows would be installed as a marginal bicycle improvement. There’s a public meeting tonight at 6:30 PM the library on Hague to discuss the proposal.

Sullivant Ave. plan ill-timed, some say
By Mark Ferenchik
The Columbus Dispatch Saturday September 22, 2012 6:18 AM

The timing of a proposal to reduce the number of lanes on Sullivant Avenue has perplexed some Hilltop neighborhood leaders.

Traffic in each direction would be reduced from two lanes to one on Sullivant between Hague Avenue on the Hilltop and Yale Avenue in Franklinton. The 2.3-mile section would also get a new center turn lane and “sharrows,” symbols that tell drivers that bicycle riders are encouraged to use the same lane.

“Why are we doing this now, before we see the impact of the casino?” said Chuck Patterson, who leads the Greater Hilltop Area Commission. “I do think it would be wise to wait and see.”The Hollywood Casino Columbus is to open Oct. 8 on W. Broad Street about 2.5 miles from the intersection of Sullivant and Hague avenues. Columbus wants to start the Sullivant work next spring or summer.

City officials have presented the draft plan to the Greater Hilltop and Franklinton area commissions. They’ll be discussing it at a 6:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday at the Columbus Metropolitan Library branch at 511 S. Hague Ave. as part of an open house on making Sullivant more attractive and pedestrian-friendly.

The city wants to increase safety along Sullivant by slowing traffic, said Rick Tilton, spokesman for the public service department.

The intersection of Sullivant and Wayne avenues had the fourth-worst rate of crashes between cars and bicyclists and pedestrians in Columbus from 2006 through 2010, with 20 crashes, according to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.


I have several comments on this:

  •  A road diet is a great idea on this stretch of Sullivant.  Center left turn lanes would improve safety considerably on the road.
  • A streetscape project is a great idea on this stretch of Sullivant.  My previous analysis showed that based on demographics in the Hilltop, this area has the potential to be a great walkable mixed-use corridor.
  • There is some recent evidence that sharrows may actually make a roadway less safe for cyclists.  This probably merits a separate post, and I think this issue needs some more research.  For now I’ll just say it would be nice if they could install bike lanes out there as was proposed in the Bicentennial Bikeways plan.  However, Sullivant appears to be about 40 feet wide, so the center turn lane would have to go to make room for bike lanes.  This is a tough trade-off to make.  The street cross-section widths with bike lanes might look like this: 5-11-11-5-8, where the travel lanes are 11 feet, the bike lanes are 5 feet, and the parking lane is 8 feet.  The three-lane cross section without bike lanes will probably look something like this: 11-10-11-8.
  • I’m not really concerned about the casino traffic.  I expect that casinos generate most traffic at night and on weekends, which wouldn’t conflict with normal rush hour traffic.

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ODOT has a survey online asking the user to rate the relative importance of things like:

  • Relieving traffic congestion
  • Improving the safety of Ohio’s roadways
  • Providing better linkages among different modes of transportation, such as bicycle, pedestrian, car, bus, train, and airplane, so that it is easy to go from one mode to the other
  • Having a good freight transportation system to support Ohio’s economy (freight transportation is the movement of goods and products on trucks/railroads and through airports/shipping ports)
  • Providing public transportation, such as buses, transit vans and light rail, in Ohio’s cities and rural areas
  • Expanding bicycle facilities
  • Improving access to Ohio’s airports

Another question asks about the importance of:

  • Maintaining the existing transportation system
  • Improving the existing highway network
  • Improving the bicycle/pedestrian facility network
  • Improving the public transportation network
  • Improving the rail network
  • Improving the small airport network (note: “Small airports” are local or county airports which service smaller aircraft. It does not include large commercial airports found in major cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, etc.)

Public opinion on these types of issues could (theoretically) guide future budgets, policies, and investment by ODOT.  I encourage you to spend a few minutes to let them know what’s most important to you.


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My wife, son, and I recently took a vacation to Michigan.  We left from Chicago on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, turned the corner around Lake Michigan, and started heading north towards Mackinac Island.  We stayed along the Lake Michigan coast for the most part, stopping in many little tourist towns along the way.  I didn’t take pictures in all of them, but almost all were very charming, with what appear to be very healthy central business districts.  I know the tourist money helps with the business aspect, but there were some trends and commonalities that I think are worth noting:

  1. Traffic moves slow in the downtown areas.  There were very few multi-lane roads.
  2. There was lots of on-street parking.  Angled parking was especially common.  Drivers looking for parking is part of the reason traffic moves slowly.
  3. Street trees were usually abundant, large, and shady.
  4. Buildings on the main commercial streets were intact.  There were solid street walls of buildings, not the gap-toothed building-parking lot-building-parking lot pattern.
  5. Parking was on-street or behind buildings in public lots.
  6. There was good signage directing people to main attractions and maps of the business district in many towns.

Here are some photos:

South Haven, MISouth Haven, MI

Holland, MI

Traverse City, MI

Charlevoix, MI

Petoskey, MI

Mackinaw City, MI

Mackinac Island, MI

Full Album Here

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A road diet is what transportation engineers and planners call a lane reconfiguration where a wide road gets narrower. Upper Arlington is planning to put Lane Avenue on a diet, reducing the number of travel lanes from four (two in each direction) to three (one in each direction with a center turn lane) between North Star Road and Northwest Boulevard. On-street parking will be permitted on the north side of the street. This should reduce speeds to aid the street in becoming a new walkable urban business district.  Here are some renderings from Upper Arlington’s consultant:


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I just learned about an initiative of the Urban Land Istitute’s Columbus chapter in the Dispatch.  It’s called Columbus 2050 and they’re seeking public input on the future of the Central Ohio, specifically housing. Their questions:

    • What do we hope to accomplish with our housing by 2050?
    • What are potential impediments to reaching those goals?
    • What specifically must we do over the next 3 years to reach our goals?

The Dispatch framed the question a different way:

What will central Ohio look like in 2050?

Will housing stretch uninterrupted to Urbana, Chillicothe and Marion or will run-down Columbus neighborhoods instead be rejuvenated?

Will the Outerbelt be surrounded by another freeway, or will trains bring people to the center city?

I’ll ask yet another way. Let’s say that Central Ohio adds 500,000 people by 2050.  Perhaps it’s ambitious, but I think it’s possible.  How much land do we want them to occupy?  Here are two images at the same scale.  Do you want approximately 333 square miles of this (assumes residential density of 1500 persons per square mile)?

New housing north of Polaris that some people think is called Lewis Center

Or would you rather have 42 square miles of this (assumes residential density of 12,000 people per square mile)?

Grandview Heights, 5th by Northwest, Harrison West, Victorian Village, Short North, and parts of Weinland Park and South Campus

Note that if you choose the second option, you will have 291 extra square miles of land that can be used for open space (i.e., parks and forest preserve) or preserved as valuable farmland to support larger populations (eating seems important to me).  The government – and homeowners by extension – will spend far less money per capita on miles of roads, sewers, water pipes, and other utilities.  And you’ll have the option to walk to stores, schools, parks, and restaurants without getting in your car.  I know which one I want, and it’s not the path we’re currently traveling.

Check out the Columbus 2050 blog and leave a comment to let them know your opinion.

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This Dispatch recently featured an article on the Eastmoor neighborhood, which is on the east side of Columbus east of Bexley.  Growing up on the northwest side, I rarely visited the east side.  I’ve driven through Eastmoor a couple of times, but haven’t spent much time there and don’t know the area well.  Based on Streetview, it does indeed look like a nice area with many large, well-kept houses (although I think they could use some sidewalks).

Regardless, I was struck by a comment from Walker on Columbus Underground regarding the condition of Main Street.

Broad Street is nice through this area as well, but Main Street needs a lot of love to be a valuable retail corridor through the area. Too many places boarded up and the street is very heavily car-centric and not a pleasant place for walking or biking.

So I Streetviewed Main Street too:

Main Street at Gould - looking east into Columbus

Main Street at Gould - looking west into Bexley

The differences only become more pronounced the farther you go into Columbus or Bexley.

Main at Eastmoor - looking east (Columbus)

Main & Roosevelt - looking west (Bexley)

Which streets look more appealing to you? Where would you rather walk?  Where would you rather bike?  Where would you rather drive?  Where would you rather live?  What makes one street more attractive than the other?

I think it’s obvious, but I’ll summarize for you.  The Bexley Main Street has lots of large street trees, on-street parking, at least some buildings on corners, no overhead utilities, traffic signals on mast arms instead of span wires, and historic-looking street lights.  Columbus provides few trees, no parking, suburban-style buildings, overhead utilities, ugly span wire mounted traffic signals, and freeway-style street lighting.

All of these things contribute to a perceptions of the area and how people use it.  Due to Bexley’s street design, I would expect lower traffic speeds, more people walking and biking on Main Street, fewer vacancies, and higher property values.  I don’t have data to check all of these things, but I’m pretty sure the last one is correct.  If people are voting with their wallets, Bexley is winning.

States and city departments of transportation need to think about the value of a place when they design streets.  This apparently hasn’t been done on Main Street in Columbus, despite an excellent example just blocks away.

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US Rep. Steve LaTourette

It’s great to have a politician Ohio can be proud of for a change.  Representative Steve LaTourette of Bainbridge Township (i.e., exurban Cleveland) has co-sponsored a national complete streets bill in the US House of Representatives.  It seems that Rep. LaTourette has come full circle after creating a bit of a controversy last year by questioning the value of bike lanes.  From Streetsblog:

Reps. Matsui, LaTourette Introduce Complete Streets Bill
by Tanya Snyder on May 5, 2011

A bill to provide Americans with more transportation choices than just driving is one step closer to becoming law. Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Steve LaTourette (R-OH) just introduced the Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2011 [PDF]. The bill doesn’t have a number yet.

…LaTourette’s support for complete streets came as a result of advocates flooding his office with complaints after he ridiculed bicycling as a mode of transportation and a jobs engine in a committee hearing last year. Perhaps if he’d never made those disparaging remarks he would never have discovered the groundswell of support for active transportation and wouldn’t be the complete streets champion he is today.

…The bill would require that states and metropolitan planning organizations craft and adhere to a complete streets policy, with guidance from the USDOT, that would apply to all federally funded projects. States or MPOs would need senior-level approval and documentation to get an exemption. It doesn’t apply to existing roads or new projects whose planning is already well underway.


The bill is unlikely to pass as a stand-alone bill, but creates dialog about what should be in in the forthcoming transportation funding reauthorization bill. I think the important thing here though is to see that some politicians do respond to comments from constituents, even when it’s about active transportation.

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